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Festival Futures: 3 Key Trends

As we approach the end of an eventful festival season featuring a few high profile casualties, The Gen attempts to map out three key trends for the future of the sector:

  1. More consolidation in the marketplace involving major players.

Lets address the largest elephant in the room first- The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) recently published some research illustrating that global entertainment behemoth Live Nation now operate or own a controlling share of almost 25% of festivals in the UK over 5,000 capacity. One single US headquartered transnational company marching towards a monopolistic position, with vertical integration across ticketing, secondary ticketing, concert promotion, venue operation and artist management. The writing is on the wall.

Lets be clear, there is nothing wrong with a large market share per se and Live Nation undoubtedly pump a tremendous amount of money into artists and the live industry- but it is resulting in a less diverse market and detrimental effects on emerging artists and other operators.

It will also be interesting to see what the next moves of AEG Presents and Global, who currently own 8% of the UK festival market will be, but expect lots of jostling for position in the UK next summer.

  1. The growth of more experiential event formats.

Something is happening in the market and it feels like we’re at a pivotal point- Boomtown Fair (pictured) sells out at 60,000 capacity, featuring an incredible level of production and attention to detail, interaction with live actors and literally hundreds of micro venues to explore. With areas divided into specific ‘districts’ like the Wild West and Chinatown, it is like the South East corner of Glastonbury stretched across an entire festival, with each ‘Chapter’ forming part of an overarching narrative. It is quite simply mind blowing and, if approached a certain way is less a music festival than a new form of interactive fiction wrapped around an almighty party in which musical line-up is secondary. It feels like the next evolutionary step for festivals

The pioneering Secret Garden Party sadly called it a day this year, inferring that they felt a lot of imitators had followed in their wake and there was no further space to innovate in the festival format.

But there are stones to be unturned- the frontier is forever shifting and although it is far from the death cry of the traditional music festival, it is about finding your niche. End of the Road are a great example of this- for a certain type of music fan, they are the gatekeepers, with a carefully curated experience putting music first and foremost. The demand for such festivals isn’t going anywhere.

If promoters want to simply put a few bands on in a field then good luck to you in standing out in the crowd. Unless you don’t put them on in a field at all…

  1. The rise and rise of city based festivals.

Multi venue city based festivals are springing up everywhere, with at least one in every city or town. It makes perfect sense as lets be clear- putting on a greenfield festival carries an absurd level of financial risk due to the cost of festival infrastructure. You are basically building a small town. More promoters are choosing instead to transform their own town, with brilliant events like Handmade in Leicester, Sŵn in Cardiff and Twisterella in Middleborough leading the way.

Tellingly, major events are also experiencing this shift, with TRNSMT taking the place of T in the Park this year. Promoters can pack a load of talent into the line-up, market it as a festival and create a festival feel, with multi-arts elements and good street food, mixing up permanent and temporary venues and catering to a non-camping crowd.

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